“I…have a kebab.”
That was the first thing I said to one of my musical heroes, Jens Lekman. I know what you’re thinking. Who else could come up with such a brilliant line to make a first impression that is not, in fact, all kinds of Buster Bluth-awkward?
What can I say? I have a gift.
I had the unexpected pleasure of being able to exchange a few flustered words with Lekman after his Oct. 8 concert at Terminal 5 in New York City. The singer-songwriter was genuinely friendly, taking the time to talk to each fan that approached him outside the venue.
The chance encounter was the crowning moment of a wonderful night and proof that Lekman is just super cool. He even said he hoped I would enjoy my kebab. He might have been teasing me, but I’ll take it.
Lekman and his band breezed through an hour-and-a-half set of old standbys and tracks off his long-awaited new release, I Know What Love Isn’t. Hearing the new tracks live added a special dimension to the unfamiliar album, and when I heard my favorite Lekman classic, “Maple Leaves,” it brought an absurd giddiness to my entire body, not to mention a happy plash of tears to my eyes. It was one of those “all-is-right-with-the-world” moments.
Most of the songs had me at least swaying, but the high-energy medley towards the end of the main set put me fully in touch with my inner “Footloose”-era Kevin Bacon (because we all have one). As I happily remarked to my dance partner, the segment made me feel like I was at a sassy salsa-friendly discotheque, if such a thing exists outside of my dreams.
His catalogue is full of vivid narratives — like encore opener “A Postcard to Nina,” an awkward come-meet-the-family in song form — that are all the more evocative live. At the show, Lekman made these stories so intimate, like a friend was regaling you over a couple of beers.
While the majority of the set was upbeat, it was also studded with some slower numbers, and the concert ended with just Lekman and his guitar. The final song, the new “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name,” blew me away with its tenderness and power. As typical as those qualities are of his songs, every time I hear them come together it kind of takes my breath away, and it’s all the more breathtaking live.
The only disappointment I had with his show — my disappointment with all shows, spoiled fan that I am — was not getting to hear some of my favorite tracks, like “Higher Power,” and “Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Letter to the Blind Girl,” a beautiful song that I would call a flawless exercise in point of view.
Maybe I’ll soon attend my second Lekman show for a chance to hear these songs. But if it ends up being identical to this show, I’ll still be satisfied.
Oh, and in case you were wondering…I did enjoy that kebab. That kebab was freaking awesome.